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Even as the State government is gearing up to implement the Akrama Sakrama scheme that allows the regularisation of the building byelaw and certain land use violation in urban areas including Bengaluru, the new rules have raised several concerns.
While a section of the civic society opposes the concept of regularisation as a whole, a few others find lacunae in the new rules which they say might prove disastrous if the scheme is implemented. In fact, there are serious doubts over the new rules of being big developer-friendly, rather than being people-friendly.
There is not much difference between the 2007 rules and new rules. The new Akrama Sakrama Rules published in May 2014 has a lot of loopholes which have to be fixed before it is too late.
Here are some of the observations on the issues that are ambiguous / not addressed or willfully avoided in the Karnataka Town and Country Planning (Regularisation of Unauthorised Development of Constructions), Rules, 2014.
- The government has not specified the measures to be taken to avoid building violations in future. Building violations can be curbed in its initial stage by tightening the building license procedure and strict monitoring mechanism where the concerned officials keep a tab on an under-construction building right from the beginning. Regularisation might be a respite for the mistakes committed in the past, but what about future? What is being done to ensure there are no violations in future?
- The Akrama Sakrama Rule which mentions of regularising setback (minimum distance between the building and the boundary and between two buildings) and Floor Area Ratio violations, is absolutely silent on parking space violation. What are the house owners with parking space violation supposed to do? Will the authorities demolish such buildings or let the violators scot-free? Does it mean the problem of parking haphazardly by the roadside in residential and commercial areas would continue?
- Akrama Sakrama Rules allow the regularisation of residential buildings with deviation upto 50 per cent and non-residential buildings with deviation upto 25 per cent. Majority of the small houses in Bengaluru have deviation exceeding 50 per cent, whereas most of the high-rise buildings have less than 50 per cent deviation. So who will reap the benefit out of the scheme? Though the government has been asserting that Akrama Sakrama has been introduced to help the poor, the Rule doesn’t reflect the same.
- If the government had an intention to help the poor and middle-class house owners rather than the big time builders, then the Rule could have made provision to regularise individual houses and other small buildings by linking the height of the building with setback area. For example, buildings with less height (G+1), could have been given more relaxation while regularising the setback area compared to a building of G+8 height. The Rules don’t have any such facility.
- How will the government ensure law-abiding citizens that regularisation will be one-time and will not happen again? We have a standing example before us of the Gujarat government which had allowed regularisation of building violations once in 2002 and then again in 2012. What if regularisation becomes a continuous process? Will it not demoralise the law-abiding citizens who construct houses / buildings in accordance with the building byelaws? What if regularisation becomes an excuse for law violators to take the system for granted?
- The new Rule allows the regularisation of residential buildings with deviation upto 50 per cent and non-residential buildings up to 25 per cent. However there is no mention of the course of action to be taken for the buildings that have more than 50% violation. So what is the plight of such buildings with deviations more than the prescribed ceiling? Will the government assure that such buildings will be demolished, or will it pave way for the introduction of yet another Rule in future for regularising buildings with more deviation?
- According to the Rule, applications related to land use violation shall be forwarded to the concerned Urban Development Authority or Planning Authority for clearance. There are several urban local bodies in the State where Urban Development or planning authorities do not exist at all. In that case which authority shall scrutinise the application and give clearance for regulation?
- An important aspect in the Rule is regularising the building by paying one-time penalty. Though the penalty amount has been increased in the new Rule, it can still be called as meagre. The regularisation fee prescribed in the new rule is Rs 40 per sq m to a site area upto 60 sq m, Rs 160 for a site area falling between 60 and 120 sq m and Rs 600 for the site area above 120 sq m. Apart from regularisation fee, the violators should also pay penalty for total violated area in accordance with percentage of market value of land. Lesser the violation, lesser the fee amount and more the violation higher the fee. Yet again, it helps the builders who have built huge buildings but have deviated less than 25 per cent. Moreover, why flat rate after 120 sq m? Why not a higher fee for high rise buildings? Since it is one-time penalty, the penalty amount could be hefty such that next time no citizen or builder should even think of violating the building byelaws.
- According to the Rules, the regularisation fee has to be paid by ‘rightful owner’ of the building, or layout. Usually after the property is sold, the management committee becomes the owner of the layout or apartment. So in this case, it is the buyers, who have to pay up for the builder’s mistake. Because it is the builder who violates the bylaws, should not he be held accountable? Why should a citizen pay for the mistake of a builder? How will this stop builders from violating the byelaws in their next projects? What is the deterrent? Urban Development Minister Vinay Kumar Sorake has announced that he will try to bring developers in the legal ambit to make them pay, but this is not convincing enough.
- What about the erring officials who allowed violations to happen? The Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act makes provision for 76FF to impose penalty against jurisdictional officer failing to prevent unauthorised deviation or construction that have taken place in his jurisdiction shall be liable for such punishment as may be prescribed. However, there is no clarity on the penalty or punishment imposed on erring officials in the law. Without framing rules for 76FF, how effectively can it be implemented?
- Even though the State is expecting Akrama Sakrama to generate mega revenue to the government, there are all possibilities of it not reaching the expectation. The scheme in all probabilities, seems to make way for the corrupt officials and politicians to mint money from public in the name of regularisation. Past experiences show us that violations have happened right under the nose of the officials and in several cases licenses have been issued despite the violations. Now, what if the same is repeated in the drama of regularisation? Of course, a large number of people would prefer to regularise their buildings by paying a bribe of say for example Rs 25,000, than paying a penalty of Rs one lakh to the exchequer!
- The Rule is solely based on the self-declaration of irregularity. In such a case, to what extent will the people come forward to declare their mistakes? How does the civic authority identify and take action against those who do not come forward on their own?
- Has the government conducted a survey or study on the socio-economic impact caused due to regularisation?
- More importantly, the Rule does not consider the opinion of the neighbourhood of the violators. There are all chances of a neighbour of an unauthorised building owner suffering due to building violation such as lack of setback area (lack of air and light). It raises question about the plight of hundreds of pending court cases where the neighbours of unauthorised building owners have pointed the problem caused to them due to such illegal constructions.
- If a residential building has a deviation upto 60 per cent, there are chances of the building owner trying to regularise it by bringing the deviation within the 50 per cent ceiling. The owner might do so by setting right the deviation of 10 per cent by making some physical changes in the building. This move could cause safety threat to his direct neighbour whose house exists adjacent to the building with deviation.
With such a huge list of issues, it remains to be seen what the scheme that aims to regularise the illegal can achieve for the greater common good.
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